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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

In an act of desperation, the Big East adds Tulane, further watering down its basketball brand

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Tulane will be joining the Big East in all sports (Getty Images)

In an era of conference realignment that has produced a 10-team Big 12, a 12-team Big Ten and two schools in both the Big East and the Big West, nonsensical choices shouldn't come as a surprise anymore.

Still, the Big East's decision to reportedly add Tulane in all sports is so desperate, short-sighted and irrational that it's hard to believe it's even real.

Tulane hasn't been to the NCAA tournament since 1995, has only made two bowl appearances since 1987 and struggles to draw even more than sparse crowds in either of the two major sports. The Green Wave is in the process of investing in athletics and upgrading its facilities, but traditionally it has been most nationally relevant in baseball, a sport that usually has been among the weakest in the Big East.

The Big East will surely insist that adding Tulane gives it a foothold in the New Orleans market when it's negotiating a new TV deal, but that's no different than inviting San Jose State in an attempt to claim the San Francisco market. Anyone familiar with New Orleans knows it's a Saints/LSU town with the Hornets a distant third and everyone else fighting for scraps.

What the Big East has really done by adding Tulane (and East Carolina in football only) is further weaken its basketball brand and lend credence to critics who claim it's assembling Conference USA 2.0 in football.

In basketball, a league built on Sherman Douglas vs. Patrick Ewing has lost the Syracuses, Pittsburghs and Notre Dames of the world will instead include the likes of Houston, SMU and Tulane. Furthermore, since neither of the new additions add much football clout, they only solidify the notion there are now only five major football conferences, and the Big East isn't one of them.

It will be interesting to see how this latest desperation move impacts the existing members of the conference.

Does it strengthen the resolve of UConn and Louisville to persuade the ACC they're the most viable available replacement for Maryland? Would basketball-only schools like Georgetown, St. John's and Providence consider combining with the top programs in the Atlantic 10 to form a league of their own? Does it make increasingly isolated Boise State and San Diego State consider scrapping its plan to move to the Big East in football in favor of a return to the Mountain West?

A quick take on those three questions: Yes, no and maybe.

• UConn and Louisville would already leap at the chance to go to the ACC, so this just gives them more motivation to bolt if an invitation comes.

• The basketball only schools probably would like to cut ties with the rest of the league right now, but they're locked in financially. The discrepancy in TV revenue from a football league versus a non-football league is too great for them to break away.

• San Diego State and Boise State have to weigh whether the increased TV revenue from joining the Big East is worth the loss of regional rivalries and damage to its other sports from relegating them to the Big West.

When joining the Big East in football meant a spot at the BCS table, that was a no brainer. Now that the Big East more closely resembles Conference USA circa 2004 in football than it does a major conference, that's not as clear-cut a decision anymore.

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